Is it Barcelona or bust for PR measurement?

In June, PR leaders from over 30 countries met at the second European Summit on Measurement in Barcelona and agreed on global standards and practices to measure and evaluate PR.

Earlier this summer, PR leaders from more than 30 countries came together at the second European Summit on Measurement in Barcelona and agreed on global standards and practices to measure and evaluate PR.

The seven agreed “Barcelona Principles” were drafted by the European-based Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), with input from the Institute for PR (IPR), the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the Global Alliance, and the International Communications Consultancy Organization.

So far take-up from the industry has been mixed. While Weber Shandwick recently “publicly endorsed” the principles, and some industry bloggers and Tweeters have shared their thoughts, there has yet to be an overwhelming wave of support, or indeed criticism, for the standards. Apathy seems to be the overriding reaction, despite the fact that measurement is crucial for client marketers, especially in the emerging world of social media.

This lackluster response might be because there are no plans to enforce the principles and they are, for the most part, commonsense working advice that includes the importance of setting goals, measuring social media and being transparent.

David Rockland, partner/CEO of Ketchum Pleon Change and Global Research admits that, while the standards are “not rocket science”, they are ultimately the first step of a long journey.

He says, “The industry has lacked standards, and while some people thought the Barcelona Principles didn't go far enough, the reality was we needed to get something out there.”

One area the Barcelona Principles do come down hard on is the use of ad value equivalency as a measurement tool, which has been denounced as “not the value of PR” and one Rockland and his colleagues want to see the back of. But, as with the rest of the principles, Rockland falls short of encouraging an industry-wide mandate. He says, “Ad value equivalency is conceptually wrong and if you cannot recognize it as a bad idea you probably shouldn't be in PR.”

In terms of moving the principles forward, the contributing bodies plan to continue the discussion at future industry events and conferences. Pauline Draper, chair of the IPR commission on measurement, confirmed there were no plans to run a communications campaign to spread the word to either PR professionals or potential clients.

Draper added that she believed discussions at industry events and PR through the IPR and PRSA networks would help gain further momentum and support for the principles.

One supporter is Andre Manning, global head of external communications, Royal Philips Electronicswho describes the Barcelona Principles as “a critical first step on the road to adopting sound measurement practices throughout PR and corporate communications”.

Manning confirmed that Philips has already reworked its PR approach to “outcome-oriented communications” and had completely abandoned ad value equivalency.

He says, “I would like to see the Barcelona Principles enforced within PR. For too long, the PR and communications function has used no metrics or taken metrics from the advertising industry. The Barcelona Principles will provide the 21st century communications professional with the right tools to act on a strategic level that goes beyond the traditional transactional approach.”

Nonetheless, for the moment at least, there are no plans to enforce the Barcelona Principles. Rockland believes the ultimate sign of success will be their “organic adoption within the fabric of PR,” but history suggests the PR industry will need more of a push if that goal is to be achieved.

The Barcelona Principles

1. Importance of goal setting and measurement
2. Measuring the effect on outcomes is preferred to measuring outputs
3. The effect on business results can and should be measured where possible
4. Media measurement requires quantity and quality
5. Advertising value equivalency is not the value of public relations
6. Social media can and should be measured
7. Transparency and replicability are paramount to sound measurement

(Available for download at Institute for PR and AMEC web sites)

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